Tree Topping vs Shaping

Know the difference between tree topping vs. tree shaping

Tree topping is the process of removing the entire upper canopy from a tree or large leaders so that height growth is hindered and lateral growth is improved. Tree topping is very bad for trees because when you remove too much of the crown it can actually starve the tree, causing death. Tree topping lessens and eliminates foliage that is required to keep the tree healthy and able to produce food. Without a viable food source the tree is likely to die.

Tree topping can also be dangerous for surrounding vegetation. Sudden loss of protection from a tree’s overhanging canopy can expose surrounding plants and shrubs to direct sunlight causing plants to die that were accustomed to shade.

The primary goal of topping a tree is to control the overall size of a tree. However, it does just the opposite. When a tree is topped, many small chutes, called “suckers” begin to grow from the tree’s wound. These wounds can be used as a vector for insects and diseases to harm the tree. The new growth of a topped tree grows twice as fast as normal growth making the wood half as strong. Trees that have been topped are more likely to have structural fractures which can be dangerous and susceptible to storm or wind damage.

Luckily, there are alternatives to topping, tree shaping by size reduction.  Size reduction through different types of thinning is a viable option. Spiral thinning and canopy thinning can decrease wind resistance and broken limbs due to wind and inclement weather. Thinning also allows more light to penetrate through trees which is important for tree health. Topping your trees does not save money in the long run as you eventually will need to have the tree removed or increase the frequency of prunings.

Trees can be healthily trimmed and shaped to be more aesthetically pleasing. Smaller, ornamental trees are generally shaped to be more appealing to the eye, and to give the tree optimal shape for plant vigor and growth. Topping a tree requires no skill but properly pruning and shaping a tree takes a lot of thought and consideration to plant health and physiology. Our arborists know the proper way to shape a tree’s canopy.

All trees require unique and specific maintenance to maintain optimal growing conditions. Allow our arborists to provide you with a specific plan that not only will benefit you, but your trees’ overall health.